Typically, when we talk of mall marketing, we talk about increasing the footfalls and prolonging customer visits. Mall managers focus on events such as fashion shows for women, concerts for teenagers, car shows for men, and cartoon-character-themed events for children. These events, even when sponsored by companies like Pepsi or Coca-Cola, cost millions to put on. But they are essential because malls should be places where shoppers feel welcome even if they do not spend a single cent. In the long run, by fostering loyalty, these efforts pay off by creating customers for lifetime for a mall and its tenants.
We have seen some fantastic community programs by malls such as Inorbit with its Aikya and Bodh initiatives and the Oberoi mall with its “Make a Wish” initiative, to name a couple, which have been hugely successful and attracted considerable footfall numbers.
Marketing initiatives that are focused towards attracting more footfalls work at the time of the launch of a mall, or in case of a re-launch. The instance of the CentralWorld mall in Thailand, which was burnt down during the country’s worst political unrest in 2010, is quite apt. When it re-opened after six months of renovation, one of its main objectives was to regain the footfall numbers that the mall enjoyed before closing down. It was critical for it to make its customers feel as much at home as they used to like in the earlier days.
The marketing departments of malls in India still feel it is paramount to project the idea of the property being a part of the local communities. This year too, there will be plenty of events held like concerts, summer attractions for kids, workshops for women, fashion shows and live performances. There will be many “Indian Idol” and “Dance India Dance“ auditions as well as live shows by the reality show contestants at the malls. And people will drive long distances to participate in things like these. Mall managers will estimate that the events attracted anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 visitors more than usual and will be content with the increased footfall numbers.
But someone somewhere has to think about the bottom line, keep an account of the expenses that the mall managers are happy to incur to get those footfall numbers, and figure out what those expenses are fetching the mall tenants in return. After all, it is the mall tenants, that is, the retailers, who are paying for all those promotions in the form of CAM charges. It is but natural for the retailers to ask the crucial question: “What am I getting in return for all those promotional expenses?”
A few pertinent questions in this regard that arise in one’s mind are: Do we really measure the difference in the business of retailers in a mall before and after an event? Can we surely attribute certain spikes in the retailers’ business to a certain event or promotional drive undertaken by the mall? Can these initiatives be driven unilaterally by the mall with little or no participation from the retailers? Are these marketing initiatives able to get more customers into the mall as against more footfalls? Are they making the customers come back again and again into the property?
These questions, I am sure, are being faced by nearly all the mall marketing managers in the country. While the questions are not unknown, the answers that have come up so far are not being verified for their effectiveness and hence we keep seeing more and more of community initiatives. This view of the mall marketing departments needs to change. People are much more planned now about their purchases and the difficulty for shopping centers is, how...